The Printing “Office”

Printing Works (pictured in 1910) (from Kirklees Images)
Printing Works (pictured in 1910) (from Kirklees Images)
Print­ing Works (pic­tured in 1910) (from Kirklees Images)

Let­ter­press print­ers today use many terms for the space in which they work.  Ran­ging from the artist­ic ‘stu­dio’ or ‘labor­at­ory’; to the work­aday ‘shop’ or grander ‘works’ there is still no agree­ment on what to call the space in which print­ing is done.  I espe­cially like “Harpel’s Mer­cant­ile Job Rooms” but settle for my own “works” where print­ing is done and “office” where I look after this web­site and its sources.

The 1897 Brit­ish Print­er art­icle, below, sets out the thoughts on ‘Print­ing Office’ from that time.

Refer­ring to the use of the term “office” as the title famil­iarly giv­en to a printer’s estab­lish­ment, The Print­er and Book­maker says :— “The dic­tion­ar­ies do not recog­nise any mean­ing of office which would jus­ti­fy its use for a place where print­ing is car­ried on. Prop­erly, the busi­ness office of a print­ing office is the only part of the estab­lish­ment entitled to the word. The pro­pri­et­or and the book-keep­er or type­writ­ist are the only ones who are really jus­ti­fied in say­ing, ‘We are going down to the office now.’ The typos, press­men, et al., should say, ‘We are going down to the shop,’ if they wish to be exact. Cus­tom has sanc­tioned office, how­ever, and its use is prob­ably suf­fi­ciently fixed to last for cen­tur­ies. This being the case, it is time that the dic­tion­ar­ies recog­nised the mean­ing in which print­ers use the word, that the knights of the stick may be backed by lex­ico­graph­ic­al author­ity.”

Our dic­tion­ar­ies, how­ever, do allow this mean­ing to the com­pound print­ing-office, defin­ing it as “a place where the print­ing of books, news­pa­pers, or gen­er­al print­ing is car­ried on.” How­ever the term may have come to apply, there is no doubt as to the gen­er­al use to which it is now put.